Welcome to the Fall 2010 issue of our monthly newsletter! This month we go "Back To Basics." Some of the most common questions we receive here at Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center remind us that it is important to focus on the simple needs of cats. Sometimes as owners, we get caught up in what works for our own human life-style and forget that these may not be the best choices from the cat's perspective.
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means cats rely on eating animal tissues in order to meet their specific protein and nutritional requirements. Fortunately, most commercially prepared foods take this into account. You can find foods available in dry, semi-moist and canned varieties. In general, dry has less than 10% water, semi-moist contains approximately 35% and canned contains over 75% water. It is important that your cat drink plenty of water. A clean bowl or cat fountain should be provided and emptied and replenished often. Some cats drink very little water from a bowl and therefore need additional moisture in their food. As a general rule, the veterinarians at Cheshire Cat Clinic recommend feeding both canned and dry daily. Cats that eat only dry can have additional water added to food to increase their moisture intake. Some cats can be quietly territorial and bully other cats away from food. Sometimes this behavior is so subtle that we as humans do not notice. Feeding stations should be provided for each cat individually and located such that they can't see another cat when eating. Cats that see another cat while they are eating might then eat very rapidly so they can leave the feeding area quickly then vomit the food ("binge and purge"). Also the feeding station should be away from both the litter and water stations. Place food away from noisy or high traffic areas to give kitty a safe haven to dine. When possible, it may be advantageous to feed your cat 2-3 different varieties of food. This way, kitty may be more likely to accept various diets and not become over-finicky and refuse new food. Also remember that not eating can lead to serious medical problems in cats. This is true for sick cats that lack an appetite, for cats on a diet, and for the finicky cat that refuses to eat. Your veterinarian should examine any cat that refuses to eat, vomits, is losing weight, starts drinking more water, using the litter box more frequently or has soft or bloody stool.
Cats are naturally fastidious, and most will instinctively use a litter box. The litter box can be simple or extravagant, but most cats prefer simple boxes without hoods. Keep in mind that kittens and elderly cats will need a box that's low enough for them to enter easily. Unscented, fine-textured litter is preferred by the majority of cats. Tidy Cat With Carbon was voted most preferred by cats overall but you may find your cat has another favorite. Some cats favor a soft, clumping litter while others are ok with the course clay style. Cats may avoid a litter-box and surrounding area that isn't clean. Be sure scoop solids from the box 1-2 times every day and change the litter completely every week (to every other week if clean), taking care to scrub the pan clean. Litter pans will need to be replaced as the plastic soaks up odors and begins to break down. Also, providing just one litter box may not be sufficient. Animal behaviorists suggest providing as many boxes as you have cats, plus one. For example, if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes. Like feeding stations, locate litter boxes in a low traffic, quiet areas that give kitty a sense of privacy without trapping them in. Some cats will require an escape route so hooded boxes or locations in the closet or tight corner may not be suitable. If your cat goes out outside the litter box at some time, there can be several reasons why. Be assured that your cat did not do this to punish you for that trip to Cancun you took last week! Inappropriate urination and defecation may be caused by medical or behavioral reasons. The first step to solving house soiling problems is always to check the basics and have a physical exam and consultation with the veterinarian to rule out medical causes and explore all options.
Because scratching on objects is a normal marking, stretching, and grooming behavior for cats, it is difficult to stop or even curb. However, cats can be taught to claw appropriate objects like scratching posts. Once you've figured out your cat's preferred scratching materials and orientation, you'll be better equipped to buy a suitable scratching substitute. For example, if your cat likes to scratch on furniture, a vertical carpet-covered post might be a good choice. But a cat that likes the horizontal motion of scratching on a floor carpet may be more likely to use a flattened cardboard box or a log placed on its side. A cat that scratches on drapes would probably prefer a vertical post tall enough for a long stretch, such as those that mount on a wall or door. Take your cat to the new scratching area or object that you've approved, and reward the cat with treats, strokes, and praise for using it. A little cat nip in the approved area can be helpful too. Sticky tape or tin foil placed on the off limits object can deter scratching. Also, Feliway pheromone spray can be helpful to stop scratching on vertical surfaces. A good set of nail clippers is another necessity for any cat owner. Regular trimming of nails reduces the likelihood of damage caused by sharp claws, and lessens the possibility of a nail growing into the foot pad and causing infection. If you start the routine early on, you will find the task becomes easier as your cat gets older.
Grooming is much easier if you begin the procedure when your cat is young. The cat will grow to accept grooming as a pleasant routine rather than as a desperation-based chore. A good brush or a steel comb is a necessity for any cat owner. By brushing or combing your cat regularly, you can keep its hair coat clean, shiny, and sleek. Furminators are a type of comb with a built in blade that helps de-shed cat fur. Any loose fur removed during grooming will not wind up on the furniture, and your cat will have fewer problems with fur accumulating in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to hairball formation. An extra benefit is that by regularly grooming your cat, you have an opportunity to examine its skin for parasites or disease. Generally, cats do not need to be bathed as they do a good job of this on their own. In fact, a greasy, matted or unkempt coat can be a sign of medical issues and should alert you to see your veterinarian.
We are here for you! The team and veterinarians at Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center are here to assist you in the care of your feline companion. We are happy to help with any of your needs from basic care questions to advanced medical care. Thank you for entrusting us with your best friend!
Dr. Ann D. Middleton
Dr. Michelle R. Metcalf
and the rest of the Team at
Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center